Causes of the Great Depression

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Causes of the Great Depression

Throughout the 1920’s, new industries and new methods of production led to prosperity in America. America was able to use its great supply of raw materials to produce steel, chemicals, glass, and machinery that became the foundation of an enormous boom in consumer goods (Samuelson, 2). Many US citizens invested on the stock market, speculating to make a quick profit. This great prosperity ended in October 1929. People began to fear that the boom was going to end, the stock market crashed, the economy collapsed and the United States entered a long depression.

The Great Depression of the thirties remains the most important economic event in American history. It caused enormous hardship for tens of millions of people and the failure of a large fraction of the nation’s banks, businesses, and farms. The stock market crash in October 1929 is believed to be the immediate cause of the Great Depression, but there were many other factors and long-term causes that developed in the years prior to the depression.

The 1920’s may have been prosperous for some Americans, but the growing prosperity was actually weakening the economy. Many US citizens were never participating in the boom from the start. There were some wealthy individuals, but 60% of people were living below the poverty line. The coal mining industry had expanded greatly, creating many jobs, but with the introduction of oil and gas, the production of coal was decreased along with the amount of jobs. The United Mine Workers Union’s membership fell from 500,000 in 1920 to 75,000 in 1928 (Temin, 33). The cotton industry experienced similar unemployment problems. In the agricultural industry, an increase in production was met with a decrea...

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...n increased 50 %, but workers could not buy goods as fast as the industry produced them because their wages were low. Workers reduced their spending to hold down their debts, the amount of money in circulation decreased, and business became even worse. The Stock Market Crash was an immediate cause of the Great Depression, but there were many long-term causes that gradually weakened the economy.


Matthews, Layth. “What Caused the Great Depression of the 1930’s?” Internet. 2002.

Samuelson, Robert. J. “Great Depression.” The Concise Encyclopedia of economics. Internet. 2002.

Tanner, Neal. “The Easy Life of the ‘20’s Contributed to Great Depression.” Overview: The Great Depression. Internet. 2002.

Temin, Peter. Lessons from the Great Depression. 1989.
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